How To Call in Sick To Work: A Guide for Restaurant Professionals

Unhealthy sick young man with scarf around his neck employee working late at office, guy sitting at workdesk, looking at laptop screen and sneezing, using napkin

In an industry known for its never-ending hustle and bustle, taking a day off can feel like a luxury that restaurant professionals can ill afford. Yet, health—both physical and mental—is paramount. 

It’s not just about you; the ripple effect of an unwell staff member can be vast, impacting colleagues, the daily operation, and the all-important customer experience.  

Given the hands-on nature of the job, taking time off when needed is not just advisable; it’s a responsibility, and knowing how to call in sick becomes a must. 

Knowing When and How to Call in Sick 

It’s essential to recognize when it’s appropriate to take a sick day and how to do it efficiently without causing unnecessary disruptions. Here are a few things to keep in mind when calling in sick.

A chart pie chowing the stat: 51% of food workers go to work when sick
[Source: Tech Times]
  • Understanding your own health: The CDC notes that influenza, for example, can be spread just by talking, and symptoms can appear 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. Recognizing the early-warning signs is crucial. Not only for you but for the broader restaurant community. 
  • Considering the health of colleagues and customers: Tech Times reports that 51% of food workers “always” or “frequently” go to work when sick. This poses risks to colleagues and customers alike. 
  • Taking advantage of mental health days (if the employer provides them): According to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the food service industry has higher rates of substance misuse than many other industries, hinting at underlying mental health challenges. If you’re dealing with stress, burnout, or other work-related mental health issues and your employer provides the option of taking a mental health day, don’t be afraid to use it. 

How To Prepare to Call in Sick 

Navigating the delicate dance of calling in sick in the restaurant industry requires careful choreography. Like a fine dining server balancing a full tray, preparation is crucial. Here are a couple of things you can do to make things easier for everyone: 

  • Call as soon as you realize you won’t be fit for work: By giving your employer ample notice, you’re allowing them the gift of time—time to shuffle the deck, find a replacement, and ensure the ship keeps sailing smoothly. The last thing you want is the brunch rush hitting and the team finding themselves in the weeds because they were short-staffed. 
  • Have the necessary information handy: Before you dial that number or send that message, get your ducks in a row and prepare as much information as possible, including a concise reason for requesting time off (without oversharing), your shift details, potential replacements, and whatever else you consider relevant. 

Remember, the goal is to communicate effectively and responsibly. This isn’t just about your well-being but also about the health and safety of your colleagues and patrons.

How often do you feel compelled to work while sick in the restaurant industry?

How To Call in Sick via Text 

Mastering the art of communicating your absence can make the process smoother for both you and your employer. The key is to be clear, concise and sincere. Here’s a primer on crafting that how to call in sick text, tailored to various situations: 

Physical Illness: 

  • “Hi [Manager’s Name], I’ve come down with a stomach bug, and it’s best I stay home to recover and avoid spreading it to the team and our customers.” 
  • “I woke up with a high fever and flu-like symptoms. For the safety of everyone, I think it’s best if I don’t come in today.”

Mental Health Days: 

  • “I’m going through a tough time mentally and need a day off to recharge and come back in a better headspace.” 
  • “For my well-being, I need to take a mental health day today. I believe it will help me be more effective and focused when I return.” 

Family Emergencies: 

  • “There’s been a family emergency, and I need the day to address it. I assure you I’ll be back as soon as things are settled.” 
  • “Something unexpected came up with my family that I need to attend to. I understand the timing isn’t ideal, but I need to take a day off. I appreciate your understanding.” 

Doctor Appointments: 

  • “I have a previously scheduled doctor’s appointment that I can’t reschedule. Can we find a solution for my shift today?” 
  • “I need to see a specialist, and the only available slot is during my shift. Could I take some time off today? I understand the inconvenience and will try to swap shifts or make up for it.” 


  • “I’m not feeling my best today and think it would be best for everyone if I took the day to rest and recover.” 
  • “Due to personal reasons, I won’t be able to make it to my shift today. I apologize for the short notice and any inconvenience this might cause.” 

The list of valuable reasons to call in sick

While it’s essential to be truthful, you also don’t owe deeply personal explanations. Gauge your relationship with your supervisor and decide on the amount of detail you’re comfortable sharing. The primary goal is to convey your absence effectively without compromising your privacy or the smooth functioning of the restaurant.

How To Professionally Call in Sick 

Every call is a reflection of your professionalism, and calling in sick should not be an exception. Here are a few things to keep in mind.  

  • Do be honest: Transparency is vital to maintaining trust. 
  • Do offer a solution: Whenever possible, suggest a potential solution. 
  • Don’t forget to follow company protocol: Make sure you’re adhering to company guidelines.

What To Do After You Call in Sick to Work 

The moments following that dreaded call to your manager can be filled with a mix of relief and anxiety.  

Now that you’ve officially communicated your absence, what comes next is crucial not only for your well-being but for maintaining a harmonious professional relationship. Let’s delve deeper into the critical steps to take post that all-important call: 

The list of things to do after you call in sick

Take care of yourself: 

  • Physical health: If you’re under the weather, prioritize rest. Overexerting can prolong recovery, and the restaurant world doesn’t pause for anyone. Drink plenty of fluids, take prescribed medicines, and consider seeing a doctor if symptoms are severe. 
  • Mental health: Ensure you set aside time for relaxation and self-care, whether that’s reading a book, meditating, or simply taking a quiet walk. The demands of the service industry can be taxing, and this break can be your chance to reset. 

Avoid work-related tasks: 

  • Digital detox: Even if you’re at home, avoid the temptation of checking work-related messages or emails. This “downtime” is your chance to recover fully, not transition to remote work. The idea is to detach so you can return more refreshed. 
  • Delegate if possible: If there are pressing issues, delegate them to a trustworthy colleague. This ensures continuity and shows your dedication, even if you’re not physically present. 


  • Keep in touch: If you anticipate your sickness might extend beyond a day or there are significant updates regarding your situation, it’s respectful to keep your employer informed. A simple text or email can suffice. 
  • Set boundaries: While it’s important to communicate, also ensure you’re not constantly available. If you’re resting or at a doctor’s appointment, it’s okay to mute your phone and reply when you’re up to it. 

Plan your return: 

  • Stay updated: Before heading back, touch base with a colleague to get a sense of any major happenings or changes while you were away. This helps smoothen your transition back into the workflow. 
  • Manage your energy: Don’t dive into things with an all-out attitude. Gradually ease yourself back, especially if you’re still feeling a tad under the weather. It’s better to be consistently functional than to burn out immediately after returning. 

Working in a restaurant can be hectic, and your health should always come first. Prioritizing self-care post your sick call is not just beneficial for you, but it also ensures you’re in top shape to offer your best to your role when you return. 

Ensuring You’re Truly Ready To Return 

While you might be mentally prepared to get back to work, your body might tell a different story. Listen to it.  

If you’re still exhibiting symptoms, especially those that are contagious, consider taking additional rest days. Coming back too soon jeopardizes your health and can put your colleagues and customers at risk.

Returning To Work After Being Sick 

The bustle of a busy restaurant, with the sizzling pans, clinking glasses, and constant motion, might seem overwhelming after a bout of illness. Diving back in headfirst without a proper game plan can lead to a relapse or, worse, mistakes that can impact the dining experience.  

Getting Back in the Groove 

The first day back can often be the hardest. Your senses have been dulled, your stamina slightly diminished, and, honestly, the soft embrace of your bed might still be calling you.  

However, it’s crucial to be proactive. Start with light tasks that you’re comfortable with. Instead of jumping on the busiest station or taking up the most tables, ease into it. Ask a colleague to help you catch up on any changes, specials, or updates you might’ve missed. And remember, it’s okay to ask for help; your team understands and will likely lend a hand. 

Show Appreciation 

Your absence meant someone else had to step in and pick up the slack. Whether it was an extra table, a longer shift, or managing an additional station in the kitchen, your colleagues had to cover for you.  

A simple “thank you” goes a long way. Bring in some homemade treats, or just express your gratitude verbally. Building strong bonds of camaraderie and showing that you value your teammates can make your work environment even more harmonious. 

Wrapping Up on How to Call in Sick To Work 

From sous chefs tirelessly working behind the line to servers juggling multiple tables, the intensity in the restaurant business is undeniable. But amidst this whirlwind, it’s paramount to prioritize health.  

There’s an old saying in the industry, “You can’t serve from an empty vessel.” If you’re not feeling your best, you can’t give your best. Taking time off when needed is not a sign of weakness but a testament to one’s commitment to quality service. 

The foundation of every great dish, and every flawless service, is a team of healthy, motivated, and passionate individuals. Always remember, your health is the secret ingredient that can either make or break the dining experience. Prioritize it without guilt. 

Encourage open dialogues about health in your workplace, advocate for mental well-being, and always, always listen to your body. Here’s to a healthier, happier, and more harmonious restaurant community. Cheers! 

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